Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has confirmed that Vladimir Putin is suffering from a cold, prompting fresh speculation that the president may be seriously ill. Commentators find such speculation understandable because officially authoritarian leaders are never sick.
Kremlin rhetoric arouses suspicion
It's odd indeed that Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has confirmed that Putin has a cold, investigative journalist Oleg Kashin writes in Republic:
“It's unusual because Putin-era officials generally don't talk about the leader's health. This topic doesn't exist - but now all of a sudden it does. Why? Dmitry Peskov is also no easy nut to crack. We've known him for a long time and we know that you can never take what he says at face value. You could even put together a little phrasebook: 'This question does not concern the Kremlin' means 'The Kremlin is in panic'. 'I'm not aware of that' means 'Everyone in the Kremlin is following this closely', and 'The media reports need checking' means 'Everything is much worse than the papers say', etc. And then Peskov suddenly says: Putin's sick. What could he have meant by that?”
A father of the nation does not get sick
Attempts to conceal even the slightest ailments of its leader are characteristic of an authoritarian country, Vedomosti sighs:
“His health is all-important, a guarantee of the stability of the state and the system. Objective information about the leader's health remains secret. The state tries to replace it with images that show just how fit the leader is. The ritual ice bath, the oft-displayed naked chest, the ice hockey games and dives for amphorae in the sea are all meant to convince the people of the leader's good health and the steadfastness of his power. Russia is not alone in this regard: think of Mao Zedong, who swam across the Yangtze River at 73, or Hugo Chavez, who did gymnastics on live TV, or Alexander Lukashenko's fierce ice hockey battles.”